WILMINGTON — A Superior Court judge on Thursday denied a request for a private attorney to be paid with public funds to defend indicted State Auditor Kathy McGuiness.
Pointing to law that was described as “clear and unambiguous,” President Judge Jan R. Jurden determined that “a public officer charged with conduct arising from her State employment is entitled to a defense provided by the Department of Justice.
“If the DOJ is unable to represent the public officer, the Office of Defense Services is the public officer’s court-appointed alternative.”
Ms. McGuiness, a Democrat, has pleaded not guilty to charges including conflict of interest, in violation of the State Officials’ Code of Conduct, felony theft, non-compliance with procurement law by structuring state payments, official misconduct and felony witness intimidation.
On Oct. 14, defense attorney Steven Wood filed a petition on behalf of Ms. McGuiness seeking to represent her while being funded with state money.
Judge Jurden, however, concurred with the state that “the statute outlines a simple process.”
Also, the judge ruled that “It is undisputed that the DOJ is unable to represent the Defendant, and the ODS is able to represent her.”
According to the order, Mr. Wood has represented Ms. McGuiness in the matter since approximately Sept. 10 and they signed a letter of engagement on Sept. 13.
The judge cited the state’s note that Mr. Wood had requested for a $550 hourly rate to defend Ms. McGuiness, along with other partners. The proposed rate was described as “somewhat higher than the rate that the Defendant is currently paying for his services in this matter.”
According to the state, granting the petition would have provided “deleterious” and absurd results.